Submitted For Your Approval - My Biggest Influence

Every writer has a laundry list of influences. I could name off quite a few names of writers who inspired and helped shape me as a storyteller. However, my first influence – and perhaps to this day still my biggest influence – wasn’t another writer. It was a TV Show.

The Twilight Zone.

I grew up in the 1980s, so I binged on both the original 1960s version as well as the 80s incarnation. And I loved both. Yes, the original series is the best, but I think the 80s version has a lot of great episodes and really pulled from literary talent the same as the original.

Something about these stories really appealed to me. It wasn’t horror of the in-your-face variety, but something more subtle. More a sense of the surreal, of a recognizable world gone slightly off-kilter in a way that at first the characters (and the viewer) had trouble putting their finger on. Instead of a sudden startling scare that gets a jump then a laugh, The Twilight Zone was more about disquieting situations that left you unsettled in a way that lingered and stayed with you long after the episode was over. The endings also often featured surprising or ironic twists that I found thrilling.

At around ten, I started penning these little one-page stories that were basically Twilight Zone knockoffs. The only one I remember in any detail was called “Laura or Horror?” So that gives you an idea of how cheesy they were. But my love of The Twilight Zone was cemented, and it became a part of me.

So that as I got older and became more serious about writing, and began to develop my craft, the influence the show had on me was bound to come out. It’s not like I’m trying to mimic or anything of the sort, it’s more a general atmosphere and feel. I have internalized the idea of subtle horror, the sense of surrealism and irony. Many of my stories strive to disquiet and unsettle.

I don’t mean to suggest I’m on the same level of quality as Rod Serling’s seminal classic show. I merely mean the show has been a huge influence on me. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if not for the time I spent in The Twilight Zone.

Returning to My First Love

Just this week I wrote THE END on the first draft of my most recent novel, BEFORE HE WAKES. I will let it sit for a while before I go back to it with the objectivity of time and distance and start the polish/editing process.

Even as I was nearing the end of the novel, working on the final chapters, I began to turn my mind toward what my next project would be. Sometimes I know well before I finish my current work-in-progress what I want to do next, but this time I was at a bit of a loss.

Not because of a lack of ideas. I have many ideas for novels and novellas, but there’s no one idea that has stepped forward from the pack and infected me with a sense of urgency that it is the one above all others that must be written.

Once BEFORE HE WAKES was done, I started to realize why that was. I was looking for the next long project, a novel or novella, but that wasn’t where my imagination was leading me. Instead, it was crying out for short stories.

I’ve always been a writer (and reader, for that matter) who has enjoyed short stories. In fact, they are my greatest passion as a storyteller. I enjoy working on larger canvases, but nothing brings me more pleasure than short fiction. There was a time in my life where I wrote almost nothing but short fiction.

However, in recent years I’ve focused more and more on longer works. I don’t regret that, it’s important to stretch as an artist and I’m proud of the novels and novellas I’ve produced, but the fact is my short story output has suffered. I’ve worked them in here and there, but they’ve not been my focus in a long time.

So before I move on to another novel or novella, I’ve decided the time has come to block off a substantial amount of time to just work on short fiction. I have so many ideas that have built up over the last couple of years that I’ll never want for material.

Now that I’ve actually made that decision, I am absurdly excited. In a weird way, it feels like returning to my roots, rediscovering my first love. Short fiction won’t just be something I try to fit in between longer projects, but short fiction will BE the project.

So I’m thinking that from now until the end of the year, my focus will be exclusively on short stories. I’ve already written an odd narrative poem called “I Molded a Man of Dirt and Clay” and am working on a strange tragic romance called “The Tooth.” I have so many more lining up in my mind, demanding attention. “Redman,” “If Wishes Were Horses,” “Stealing Wishes,” “Around the Loop,” “Favored,” “Dead Baby Blues,” “Pink Applesauce”…just a few of the titles I’m looking forward to getting down on paper.

I will file away the novel and novella ideas I have and their time will come, but that time is not now. Now is the time for short stories.

Interview with Aaron Dries

My good friend, sometimes collaborator, and all around talented guy Aaron Dries recently re-released his debut novel HOUSE OF SIGHS through Crystal Lake Publishing. I read this book when it was originally released years ago and was blown away by it, making me an instant fan. This new edition contains a bonus novella which acts as a sequel to the novel, and I think "The Sound of His Bones Breaking" is actually even more powerful. I jumped at the chance to interview him again for my blog

How did it come about that Crystal Lake put out a new edition of your debut novel, House of Sighs?

Aaron: My association with Crystal Lake began a few years back when I was approached by one of their editors to contribute to a Tales From the Lake anthology. That was accepted and subsequently well-received (thank goodness - so nerve-wracking). That story was shortlisted by Ellen Datlow for her Best Horror of the Year list, which was nice. Continuing on from that, there was my collaboration with yourself, Where the Dead Go to Die, which Joe was extremely enthusiastic about. From that, I pitched a Sighs reprint, and sweetened the deal with a sequel novella idea for a two-in-one edition. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tell us a little about the inspiration behind the included novella, The Sound of His Bones Breaking.

Aaron: I'd been sitting on an idea for a Sighs sequel for about four years. But ideas are disparate things, floating around in the ether, and they rarely work until they click with another such disparate train of thought. When these random strains come together, it's like a physical click I can feel in my body. At that point, I know I've got to get writing. The recent instigator was an actual experience of mine. A couple of Christmases ago, I was catching up with a friend up the coast here in Australia. It was late at night and we were drinking beers in an open bar overlooking a street in the rough part of town. People were mulling about, waiting for taxis and their Ubers. One taxi driver pulled up and he was obviously drunk, and intoxicated patrons were filing into his backseat - total recipe for disaster. A street brawl broke out right in front of us. Afterwards, the 'click' came, and I set myself to work.

Had you ever written a sequel to one of your works before?

Aaron: Technically no. However, House of Sighs and The Fallen Boys and A Place for Sinners all interconnect in little ways that very few people have picked up on. There are cross-over characters in all of these books - and The Sound of His Bones Breaking, the sequel to House of Sighs, summarizes all of these intersections in one, tying up this universe in a neat little bow.

What were some of the challenges returning to a familiar character and world?

Aaron: I had no problems with it at all. I've known that I would be writing about this character (and I'm being deliberately elusive here for fear of spoilers). If anything, I was hungry for it. I knew I wanted to explore the themes of trauma and denial. This character was, in a very sad way, kind of predestined to evolve in such a way, and into such a book. Those slowly breaking bones have been splintering since the beginning.

As an openly gay man, do you feel that aspect of yourself has an influence on your writing? If so, how?

Aaron: I absolutely do. I prescribe to the Jack Ketchum mode of inspiration, which encourages you to be brave and "write from the wound." Western society is changing, and civil liberties LGBTIQ citizens have been fighting for are being slowly awarded across the world. But there is still a long way to go. For those who think otherwise, I'd argue they're living under a heavily insulated dome of privilege. But things are evolving. I think it's important for younger gay writers to write about their experiences, their hurts, the stuff that makes them angry, because there's a complacency that's slowly evolving in the creative arts, as potential writers slowly stop reading and happily bypass the creative process by diving onto social media to vent their frustrations. I think we have a duty to write from that still bleeding wound, and to write our stories well. Doing so honors those who have come before us, and if we're lucky, may inspire others to world-build themselves. Because, let's face it, our worlds are different. LGBTIQ people are wonderfully other in some ways; experiences and a history of systematic prejudice naturally dictates that (for some). Consequently, our fiction feels different, too. That's why diversity in the field SHOULD be encouraged. Who wants to go to the bookstore and unearth the same kind of diluted, slowly quietening voice? Diversity will keep this industry alive and it's great to see mid-list genre fiction in particular embracing this change (mostly). I refuse to believe that people who have had to re-evaluate their lives because of factors completely out of their control, whose identities have been challenged, and who have been hurt by others... have nothing to say. To some degree, that's a wound too. But not all wounds are bad. Just as not all fiction written from between those stitches are good, either. But damn it, try.

Definitely agree, which is why I've tried to get a movement started on social media, #LGBTinHorror, to highlight some of those disparate voices. Who are some of your favorite gay horror authors?

Aaron: One of my favorite gay horror authors is Michael McDowell. I think there's an erudite wit to his work, a dry sense of observation that comes from someone who feels like an outsider looking in at the worlds they know so very well yet feel somewhat separate from. His work is by turns chilling and hilarious, lush and then sparse. He is an author of contradictions, who somehow made those contradictions his brand. There's that delightful otherness that doesn't feel deliberate, nor conceited, just really rather honest. There's something deliciously inspiring about that. For new readers, I'd check out his Blackwater series, Cold Moon Over Babylon, or my favourite, The Elementals.

Since this new edition contains a sequel, tell me about some of your favorite literary sequels?

Aaron: Sequels fascinate me. I love the weight of expectation between what a readers wants and what a writer wants to create. That relationship is so precarious and interesting to me. In some ways, it's the wait and processing of a sequel that blows my mind. Some big ones for me are Psycho 2 by Robert Bloch (which for those who don't know, has nothing to do with the film Psycho II) - it's a vicious book, satirical, and is jammed with some genuine surprises. Hannibal by Thomas Harris is another one. What an ending!

Do you have a particular writing regime? If so, can you describe it?

Aaron: I'm an opportunistic writer. I write on trains, in lunch breaks, whilst traveling, in bed, over breakfast. If I don't have my laptop, I write longhand or on my phone. My routine is no routine. That way, I rob myself of excuses not to write.

What was the first book you read for pleasure that wasn't a child's picture book?

Aaron: I'm not too sure, but were I to hazard a guess, I'd say it would've been something by R.L. Stine. From that period, Goosebumps: Stay Out of the Basement resonated with me.

How old were you when you wrote your first story?

Aaron: I started off writing and illustrating Batman and Ninja Turtles comics for my family and friends. Only all the villains were monsters! So I guess my interests were there right from the beginning.

Does your family support your literary pursuits?

Aaron: Yes, they do. It's not to everyone's taste, which is totally fine. But they're very supportive. My grandmother, bless her, almost passed out when I told her I'd co-written a book with my buddy Mark called Where the Dead Go to Die. "Oh, why can't you write something nice, Aaron? Gosh. Now send me a copy so I can put it on the shelf and never read it."

Who would you say was your biggest influence as writer?

Aaron: Growing up, without a doubt, Stephen King. As I got older, Daphne Du Maurier blew my mind with novels such as Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. I was also very big on Ira Levin, Robert Bloch, David Schow, Shirley Jackson, Jack Ketchum. But I absolutely still get a kick, even all these years later, when I crack the spine on a new King book. The inspired teenager in me is still there, albeit somewhat more jaded, and nothing brings on a smile like one of those big doorstoppers.

Tell me about some of your favorite convention experiences.

Aaron: A few years back, I was lucky enough to attend the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, where I happened to meet you, Mark, and a bunch of great people. It was my first international con and my heart was full of love for everyone there. I met new people, readers, and heroes. I also had an absolute ball at Conflux in my home city of Canberra, Australia. What a brilliant bunch of people, great panels, and an all round inspiring vibe. Brilliant!

I know you have traveled to the filming locations of iconic horror movies. What was your favorite place to visit?

Aaron: Absolutely visiting filming locations from Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I felt a little morbid asking a local for directions to a cemetery, but it was totally worth it.

Do you remember the first horror movie you ever saw? If so, what was it?

Aaron: Oh, this is a tough one, as so many of those memories blur into one in regarding timelines. I vividly remember my parents watching A Nightmare on Elm Street after us boys went off to bed, and I watched it from the hallway without them knowing - though largely from behind my hands. I have similar memories with the original Child's Play and - of all things - Halloween 5. But honestly, the first film to terrify me was Return to Oz. Kinder trauma all the way, folks. It toughens you up!

Did you ever make up sequels to horror movies in your head when you were younger?

Aaron: Oh, all the time. But the quality of these fictions were more Piranha 2: The Spawning than, say, Silence of the Lambs. But hey, you got to start somewhere.

I want to thank Aaron for taking the time to talk to me, and I encourage you all to read his work. He's got the goods and has a bright future ahead of him.

The new edition of HOUSE OF SIGHS can be purchased here:

Origin Stories: Fort/Companions In Ruin

I got a little sidetracked for a while, but I plan to become more active on this blog again. I want to return to my Origin Stories series, where I detail the path to publication for each of my books.

For this one I am going to double up, and we will be discussing the publication of my zombie novella FORT and my collection COMPANIONS IN RUIN.

I had the idea for FORT shortly after the publication of my other zombie novella ASYLUM, and actually started writing it at that time but ended up putting it aside for a while. A couple of years, actually. I happened to look over what I had while I was finishing up a novel I was writing with my friend James Newman, and I thought going back and finishing FORT would be a good thing to do for my next project.

Shortly after James and I finished our novel, DOG DAYS O’ SUMMER, we started talking about it online, and Tristan Thorne from Sinister Grin Press expressed interest in reading the novel. We had already promised first read to another publisher, which ended up buying the novel. However, Tristian asked if we had anything individually that we might want to submit for consideration with Sinister Grin.

As a short story lover, I immediately inquired if they would be interested in publishing a collection. He said sure, so I set about going through my stories to select a table of contents. In most of my previous collections, I had favored newer, never-before-published stories, but I had amassed quite a few tales that had previously appeared in anthologies and magazines but the rights were back with me and I wanted to give them a chance to find a broader audience. The title for the collection actually came from a phrase I heard in a Buddhist talk about choose our associations wisely. I thought COMPANIONS IN RUIN was a perfect title.

I also told Tristan that I was in the midst of writing a zombie novella and asked if they would also be interested in reading that once it was done. He said yes, and so I sent it to them as soon as I was done. They accepted both books, though FORT required work. I ended up fleshing the story out with several flashbacks to deepen character and expand the scope.

Sinister Grin published both these books. FORT first in November of 2015 and then a few months later COMPANIONS IN RUIN in February of 2016. They delivered two distinct and absolutely stunning covers, and helped me snag a few podcast interviews. While the books didn’t break any sales records, they did all right for me and even today I still get feedback on them.

One big thrill for me was that on the Fangoria website at the end of 2015, FORT was named one of the best books of the year. As someone who grew up on Fangoria it was something that filled me with a joy I can’t quite express.

I’m very grateful to Tristan and everyone at Sinister Grin for taking on both those books and doing such a fine job with them.

You can purchase both books on Amazon:


My latest release is the shared collection SPLISH SLASH TAKIN’ A BLOODBATH from Unnerving Press. The brainchild of Eddie Generous, this book collects tales inspired by slasher films from me, Eddie himself, and Renee Miller. I have seven stories in the collection, and the closing story was a collaborative effort by the three of us.

I always like to post “story notes” for the collections I put out, so I thought I would do one for the stories in SPLISH SLASH.

“First Time” – I love flash fiction. It is actually one of my favorite things to write, so almost every collection I ever produce will include flash. In this case, I was thinking of a standard horror image, a young couple in a car on lover’s lane, preparing to go all the way. I thought it might be fun to take that image and give it a twist.

“The Killer’s Mask” – The idea for this one originally came when I was trying to come up with something for the anthology BEHIND THE MASK, where the stories had to deal in some way with masks. However, I knew this one would likely not be long enough for that editor was looking for, so instead I wrote the story “Walk a Mile in Another Man’s Face” for BEHIND THE MASK. Yet this idea didn’t leave me so I put pen to paper. I liked the idea of someone who collected memorabilia from serial killers getting hold of the actual mask worn by a killer, and the story would be what happened to her when she put it on. I had fun making a connection here to my slasher novel SEQUEL.

“Copycat” – The idea for this one actually came from a conversation with my friend and sometimes-collaborator Shane Nelson. We were talking about stories of serial killers, and he made a comment (which I can’t repeat as it would give away a major twist in the story) that got the wheels turning in my mind. I asked his permission before turning that comment into a story. I wanted to deal with characters grieving the death of a loved one, and how they react when someone else is killed in the exact same fashion.

“The Let Down” – This story is interesting, in that it originally started as a writing challenge with a friend (Shane Nelson again). The image we started with was simply, two people sitting in a car in a graveyard at night. Well, thinking on that image, I was reminded of an earlier story I’d written, “The Hidden Cemetery.” (That story hasn’t been published yet, but will appear in a new collection late this year.) That story ends with two characters sitting in a car in a graveyard at night, and I suddenly realized I could do a follow-up that picked up right where that story ended. And the great thing, it was its own self-contained story so I included it here.

“Slow and Steady” – This story I had a lot of fun writing specifically for this collection. I was thinking about slasher films, and how one of the clichés is that the killer always walks at a leisurely pace while the victims run through the woods, and yet the killer always seems to catch up with them in the end. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel in my mind with the story of the tortoise and the hare. I thought I’d have some fun with that parallel. Originally I thought it would come off as more of a spoof, but I think while it has humor it works well as a slasher story in its own right.

“Investigation” – Okay, this story started out in my mind as something completely different. I had originally started a story I was calling “White Folks Have to Investigate” (based on something Whoopi Goldberg once said to Stephen King when talking about horror movies), and the premise was a parody of how horror movie characters always make the dumbest decisions possible. However, when I started writing it, that isn’t the direction the story took. It wasn’t playing as comedy, so I stopped trying to take it that way, and just because a story about a woman home alone investigating a strange noise in her attic. I played around with a traditional horror set up.

“Halloween Homecoming” – This story is actually a sequel to two tales published in my collection HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS, a series of tales that has a long history. I wrote the first one, “Spook House,” in the fall of 1998 as an assignment for my Creative Writing course. I wanted to deliver something horrific for the Halloween season, and came up with something that felt like a fun slasher movie. Several years later for fun, I wrote a sequel called “Halloween Party.” Since the first one was a homage to slasher films, it felt right to do a sequel. I thought that was the end of it, but October of last year I suddenly got an inspiration for a third in the sequence, and thus “Halloween Homecoming” was born.

“Queen of the Trailer Hop” – This is the collaborative story written by myself, Eddie, and Renee. We did it as a round robin, Eddie started it, sent it to Renee to continue, then to me. We each had two turns. We did not discuss the story or map it out at all. When I would get the story for one of my turns, there would be no discussion on where the other two writers wanted the story to go and I’d decide myself. It was a rather fun experience.

SPLISH SLASH TAKIN’ A BLOODBATH can be purchased here:

A Look Back at 2017

We are putting another year to bed, a new year about to begin. As is my way, I want to look back at 2017 and take a trip down memory lane, specifically the events pertaining to my life as a writer.

It has been a good year for writing. I spent the majority of the year on two larger projects. I started the year working on the novella THE UNHOLY EUCHARIST, my first major vampire project since I started publishing professionally. I took the kernel of an idea I’d had back in my youth, my college years, and twisted it around to create my own brand of vampire with their own hopefully unique origin story. I span several time periods in the story, and I had a lot of fun doing the research. I didn’t do a bunch of research beforehand; I did the research as I went along. I would start a new section in a new time period, then I’d do the necessary research for that part, write it, then move on to the next time period and start the research again. The novella came out just shy of novel-length, and I put it with two other novellas—KRONOZ and THE PRICE OF SUCCESS (written with my friend Shane Nelson)—and sent the collection off to a publisher.

My other large project for the year was the novel 324 ABERCORN. This was an idea I had years ago, and at one point I had started writing it, getting a few chapters in and putting it aside for reasons I don’t entirely remember anymore. I dove back in and spent the last half of the year finishing it. I had a blast, and I fell in love with my characters a little bit, which is always the ideal for a writer. At a certain point, I was thinking this would be a novella and would be part of the novella collection, but it grew and became a novel in its own right. I finished this novel recently, earlier in December, and I sent it to a publisher for consideration as well.

As always, I also wrote several short stories throughout the year. Since I started publishing, I’ve begun to focus more on longer works (novellas and novels), but short stories remain my first and truest love and I will never stop writing them.

It was also a good year for publishing. I started out the year with the February release of my novel THE CULT OF OCASTA through Evil Jester Press. This book is a sequel to my earlier novel THE QUARRY, and I think is a more complex and deeper story. I also used it as a swan song to my favorite location for my fiction, Limestone College. OCASTA felt like a culmination of all the different Limestone stories I’d told, so it felt right to make it, as the subtitle suggests, The Final Limestone Story. I’m very proud of this novel and was so happy to see it out in the world.

At the beginning of October, my novella #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain was published as the longest piece in the digital collection HALLOWEEN CARNIVAL VOL. I, released through Random House’s imprint Hydra. It appeared along with stories by Lisa Morton, John R. Little, Kevin Lucia, and one of my idols Robert McCammon. I can’t tell you what a thrill that was! Editor Brian Freeman did a great job, and the collection did very well. Probably the most feedback I’ve ever gotten for a work.

Between these releases, August saw the rerelease of two of my older titles. First Apex Publishing decided to put out a new edition of my zombie novella ASYLUM. The book got a gorgeous new cover, and I even penned a follow-up short story (“Lunatics Running the Asylum”) that was included in the new edition. At the same time, Etopia decided to give my time-travel romance novel THE EXCHANGE STUDENT a facelift. It too got a beautiful new cover and reentered the world.

In addition to these projects, I had a handful of short stories appear in various anthologies and magazines. At the very beginning of the year, my story “Take Me to Your Cheerleader” appeared in the anthology DREAD STATE, edited by Eugene Johnson and Michael Paul Gonzalez and released through Thunderdome Press. The big thrill there is I appeared alongside a reprint from Ray Bradbury. In April, Things in the Well released the anthology BETWEEN THE TRACKS, edited by Steve Dillion, and featured my short story “The Toll.” October featured three appearances: “The Basement Apartment” in Things in the Well’s BENEATH THE STAIRS, the poem “Halloween Carnival” in Dillion’s Halloween magazine TRICKSTER’S TREATS, and “A Rain of Autumn Leaves” in the Unnerving Press chapbook ALLIGATORS IN THE SEWERS.

This year I also started writing a sporadic book column for THE CHEROKEE CHRONICLE in Gaffney, SC, my hometown. I have such a love of all things books, and growing up in Gaffney I didn't exactly feel that I was surrounded by like-minded individuals, so I thought this would be a good service to the community for other book lovers in town.

I hosted a few events this year as well. In February, I held a writer’s workshop for Greer Relief, as part of their program where clients who use their services take classes in exchange for vouchers for food and clothing. In March, I hosted a campus-wide scavenger hunt at Limestone College where I also did a talk and book-signing for the students who participated. In September I hosted another literary scavenger hunt at Joe’s Place, which served as a fundraiser for the Greenville Literacy Association, and it was probably my most successful event to date and earned a nice chunk of change for the GLA. Finally in October, my friend and fellow writer James Newman and I cohosted a horror discussion panel at the Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg. I made a few appearances on WYFF, the local NBC affiliate, to promote some of these events.

It has been a good and productive year, and as always I got through it with my husband Craig Metcalf by my side. His support and encouragement makes all the professional progress possible. We celebrated our first anniversary this year, and it’s the first of many more to come.

I look forward to the challenges and opportunities 2018 presents, and I will continue to write and publish and live my dream.

Origin Stories: Halloween House of Horrors

It seems appropriate at this time of year that the next title I’ll feature in my Origin Stories series is the collection HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS.

The journey to publication for this book was simpler than most. In fact, this was one of the rare instances where the publisher approached me. Philip Perron runs Great Old Ones Publishing, and I had met him several years prior when he was kind enough to interview me on his podcast when I was promoting some of my other titles.

In October of 2014, Philip sent me a message, asking if I had any unpublished novels that might be a fit for Great Old Ones. I did not, but as a voracious short story writer, I knew I had more than enough for a collection. I inquired as to whether or not he’d be interested in a collection, and he said yes.

I immediately began going through my stories, picking out a table of contents. At the time, I was writing a few Halloween short stories because every October I dedicate to the writing of Halloween-themed stories. Because of this, I have dozens of such tales, and I suddenly realized I could do another collection of just Halloween stories.

Several years before I had published DARK TREATS, which contained five Halloween short stories, but I knew that with this one I could have a lot more. I was even inspired to do a wrap-around story, a framework to sort of tie everything together.

I contacted Phil again and asked if he’d be interested in a Halloween collection. I mentioned I had a lot of stories and not all of them were horror. Some were more dramatic, and even one was a children’s story. He said he’d love to go that route, he only asked I not include any that were strictly comedic. That eliminated only two of the stories I was considering.

So I put together 19 stories, and I had just as much fun creating the wrap around story to weave around the tales, and submitted it to Philip. The collection was released the following October with a cool autumnal cover, and I couldn’t be prouder.

HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS can be purchased here:


It may come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, but I am an absolute nut for Halloween. As a lifelong horror fan, it has always been my favorite holiday, the one time of year that my interest in the macabre is not looked down upon by the world at large but actually celebrated!

For that reason, I have written a lot of Halloween-themed fiction. It has pretty much been a tradition of mine for over a decade to write Halloween stories over the month of October. So far this year I've already written one, "Halloween Homecoming," and have another one planned I'll call "The Bloody Fountain."

Because of this tradition I have what might be considered an inordinate number of Halloween books on them market (not as many as Al Sarrantonio maybe, but still a lot). I figure it 'tis the season, so I'll post about each one, giving a little info.

Just this past week I released my serial killer novella #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain as part of the anthology HALLOWEEN CARNIVAL VOL. I, released through Random House's digital imprint Hydra (down the road it will be a Cemetery Dance hardcover as well). I had such fun writing this one, setting it in Greer, SC, the town in which I currently live. I wanted to write something exciting and fun and full of my love of horror and Halloween. And the fact that the novella appears in a collection with stories by authors I really respect, including one of my favorite storytellers Robert McCammon, makes it all the more thrilling. (

A few years ago Great Old Ones Press released a 19 story collection of mine called HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS. I put together an eclectic mix of my Halloween fiction. The oldest story dates back to 1998, and the most recent to 2014. A lot of horror (supernatural and supernatural), but also some non-horror stories that are more dramatic and emotional, as well as one children's story. Some of the stories are long, others are flash pieces of less than 1000 words. What they have in common is that they all contain my love of the holiday. (

Bad Moon Books originally put out my novella OCTOBER ROSES (it is now available through Crossraod Press). This one is set at Limestone College, my alma mater and the setting for a lot of my fiction. I had fun utilizing the campus while also crafting a story of a long-dead serial killer possibly possessing a student and making her kill while she slept. I also had my main character from THE QUARRY pop in for a cameo appearance, and then when I wrote THE CULT OF OCASTA (a sequel to THE QUARRY), some of the characters from OCTOBER ROSES got to appear in that one. It's a quick, fast-paced novella that I am very proud of. (

My first Halloween book was the collection DARK TREATS (released originally from Sideshow Press then later from Gallows Press). This is a short collection, just five stories, but I felt they all offered something different on the theme of Halloween. One of them, "Halloween Returns to Bradbury," is one of my favorite pieces of my short fiction. I remember the joy of its release, knowing that I finally had a book out that celebrated my favorite holiday of the year! (

So there you have it...for now. I'm still writing Halloween stories every year, which means I definitely feel that down the line there will be another collection in the works. It doesn't matter how old I get, I am always going to love Halloween and I will always celebrate that through my fiction.

My First Bookstores

I didn’t set foot in an actual bookstore until I was in my later teens.

I grew up in a town with no bookstore and I had no real access to transportation out of that town. I fed my voracious book habit primarily through the use of the public library, sometimes picking up books from the paperback rack in the Buford Street Drug Store or at Walmart.

However, when my best friend got her license and a car, we started tooling up Highway 29 to Spartanburg, SC, on a regular basis, and there I had my first taste of Heaven.

As we entered Spartanburg on 29, one of the first things we hit was the Hillcrest Mall, an indoor mall that contained among other stores a Waldenbooks. The mall was relatively small, and the bookstore itself was fairly small, but never having been inside an actual bookstore before, it seemed massive to me, the largest collection of books I’d ever seen outside a library.

To this day, I can remember that the register was to the right when you walked in, and often there would be little standup cardboard posters for upcoming releases next to it. I vividly recall walking in one day and seeing the poster for King’s GERALD’S GAME and being absolutely beside myself with excitement. In the pre-internet age, I actually never knew when my favorite writers had a new book coming out and certainly had no clue as to titles or covers. This opened up a whole new world.

I spent countless hours in that store, buying up Stephen King and Anne Rice and Dean Koontz. Anytime I had any extra money in my pocket, I wanted to get up to the Waldenbooks and scour the shelves for books to bring home. So many of the writers I’d fallen in love with had such extensive backlogs, I really had to strategize. Dozens of Stephen King books, for instance, but I may have just enough cash for one paperback. Which would it be?

Waldenbooks wasn’t the only piece of Heaven I found at the Hillcrest Mall, however. Attached to the indoor part was a strip-mall called “Specialty Row.” One of the shops in this area was an independent bookstore called Pic-A-Book.

In some ways I loved Pic-A-Book even more than the Waldenbooks. It had more character, more atmosphere. For one, it was kind of a mess. Books just stacked everywhere to the point that I often referred to it as “the Disorganized Bookstore.” But that mess made it feel more welcoming, in a strange way I can’t quite put into words. It was fun to rummage through, looking for buried treasure. When I first started going there, the New Releases section was in no actual order, they just put the new books up on the shelves as they came in. Eventually they did alphabetize them, but not by author name. Instead, by title. An odd system, but one with a certain quirky charm.

True, Pic-A-Book didn’t discount their books like Waldenbooks, but they made up for that in having a more diverse selection. I remember wanting to purchase a biography of Clive Barker, and it wasn’t available in any chain stores, but it was proudly on a display table at Pic-A-Book. Again, before the internet, this was very important.

Eventually Spartanburg got their first Barnes & Noble, and that seemed to drive all the smaller bookstores out of business. Actually all the stores in the Hillcrest Mall started going out of business, but Waldenbooks was one of the last ones remaining before it too folded and they tore down the outdoor part of the mall, making room for a Publix and Stein Mart. Specialty Row remained, and remains to this day, and Pic-A-Book held out against B&N for many commendable years, but eventually it took closed its doors.

I was sorry to see both these places gone, because they were my first foray into the world of bookstores and they held so many great memories for me. However, those memories cannot be destroyed and they still exist inside me, meaning that in some small way those bookstores still exist as well.


When Apex Publishing expressed interest in releasing a new edition of ASYLUM, Jason Sizemore said he would like to include some original content. He had suggested perhaps an author interview or something of the sort, but I countered with the idea of an original short story set in the universe of ASYLUM. Jason liked that idea very much. All great except…

I didn’t actually have an idea.

I loved the idea of returning to that universe I’d created. I’d done it once before with a semi-sequel called FORT. I say “semi-sequel” because other than a couple of flashbacks, FORT shares no characters or settings with ASYLUM, simply takes place during the same fictional zombie apocalypse. For this new story, I wanted something that was more directly related to the novella.

So I figured I needed new characters happening across the club and going inside. But who were these new characters? Other survivors looking for shelter? What would they find inside? What would be the meat of the story?

I mulled this over for a bit, trying to nail down some specifics. I began to consider that these new characters might be young men who were members of a civilian militia of sorts, roaming the city and killing as many zombies as possible. Once I had settled on these characters and began to develop their personalities, I turned my imagination to what they would find inside the club, how the events of the novella would impact this new story. I wanted something that would come as a surprise to the new characters, but also might surprise readers of the novella. I settled on “Lunatics Running the Asylum” as the title as it seemed apropos.

Once I had all that set in my mind, I dove into the writing, going back and rereading certain sections of ASYLUM to refresh my memory on events and details. I found the experience a great deal of fun, reentering that world after all this time.

Once the story was done, I turned it into Apex, worked with them on some edits, and they set about putting together the new edition of ASYLUM. I’m beyond thrilled that the novella is getting a new lease on life, and even more thrilled to offer up this new short story to readers.

Between ASYLUM, FORT, and “Lunatics Running the Asylum”, I have had a great deal of fun exploring the traditional zombie formula with my own spin, and while I have no plans to pen any further adventures set in this universe, I wouldn’t rule it out either.

ASYLUM can be purchased here: